Why are teenagers dependent on headphones?

Anna Kozel, Writer

We were driving back home late in the night, our car’s headlights like lightsabers piercing through the darkness. I knew our family rule —“No headphones in the car”— but I didn’t see a big deal with me wearing just one earbud. My excuse was that I would still be able to hear if someone tried to talk to me. However, I was tired. I got distracted by my phone and couldn’t hear my host mom’s question. When she realized that I disobeyed the rule, she got mad and frustrated. 

The question is, why was I so desperate to wear my headphones?

Our parents, teachers, and elders perceive us teenagers wearing headphones or earbuds as disrespectful and rude. While it can be annoying to repeat a question or frustrating to realize that the person didn’t listen to you, teens use headphones for various reasons that might explain why they use them at perceivably inappropriate times.  

The article “Headphone Listening Habits and Hearing Thresholds” published by the National Center for Biotechnology and Information has reported that 80% of 13- to 18-year-old individuals listen to music using headphones for 1–3 hours per day. However, the age group 30-49 years uses headphones for 5.5 hours per week. That is almost a third less of the amount of time that high school students use headphones. 

So, what are the reasons that high school students wear headphones?

To find out more about why students use headphones so often, I sent out a survey asking students why they used headphones and divided their responses into 3 main categories. 

#1 – Headphones help students concentrate

Once students put on their headphones, any extra noise disappears. Headphones help in making them feel as if they are in isolation even when people are around them. They get into their world. Everything distracting students gets eliminated. Students don’t pay attention to any background noise and can focus on a task in front of them.

By turning on their favorite playlists, they can concentrate better and block outside sounds. Research backs up the idea that headphones help during the study. A recent study commissioned by CSU Global showed that students who picked a playlist to listen to while studying were more likely to have a higher GPA.

A study by Karageorghis in the Journal of Sports Exercise Psychology found that motivational music during working out helped exercisers push through fatigue. In an American Council on Exercise article, he says that music can increase endurance during a workout by up to 15 percent.

#2 – Students can use headphones as a way to isolate themselves from other people

That might feel disrespectful or rude sometimes, but it can be very helpful and needed by a student. Normal high school students spend at least 7 hours a day at school. It is a lot of time being around teachers and other teenagers. For some students, it can be stressful and exhausting. In the class, they have less personal space and time than at home. So by wearing headphones and walking in the hall they isolate themselves from that crowd of people and can listen to and concentrate on themselves. Some students are introverts and their time and space are very important to them. Respecting students’ personal space would add more trust in a student in their parents and teachers. Students would be able to feel more comfortable and free with adults. 

#3 – Students listen to music as a mental health pacifier 

A lot of students wear headphones to listen to their music just because they enjoy it. By listening to their favorite playlist, their mood increases, and they feel more energetic while having less stress. Research has shown that it can lessen the impact of depression and anxiety. A study done by the Canadian Center of Science and Education in 2019 found that college students who listened to classical music every day for two months lowered their levels of anxiety significantly. Many studies have shown that 30 minutes of music a day rescues our stress level by 75%. It relaxes our muscles, improves our mood, stimulates memories, and can even moderately reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety. That is why parents and teachers should allow and encourage students to listen to their favorite playlists.

All the reasons why students choose to wear headphones more often appear to be very simple and understandable. The intention of wearing headphones is not to be disrespectful, but to relax, unwind, and feel less stressed.